It’s a bird, it’s a plane, its Batman and Superman!? Nope,
it’s a couple of Maryland guys building a new state of the art winery! Drink
Local Wine 2013 in Maryland is now more than a month ago, and I have written
less than half of all the wine reviews I owe. I had an amazing time. Here’s
another new jewel to add to the crown that is the growing reputation of
Maryland’s renewed wine industry.
Lenn Thompson and I were tasting together at one point and
came across a table where stood a one man and two bottles of wine labeled with
hand written labels. We had no idea what we were in for – but I can tell you
now, it was a special treat! The table was that of a newly emerging winery
called Big Cork Vineyards.
Nestled on 100 rolling acres in Maryland’s Pleasant Valley,
Big Cork Vineyards embodies the bold and expressive landscape of the region. For
Big Cork Vineyards (BCV) President Randy Thompson, the rolling expanse of crops
that once dotted his family farm was truly a field of dreams. Amid the rows of
corn and hay, Randy envisioned a vineyard with a grand winery and tasting room.
After a serendipitous encounter between Randy and local winemaker Dave Collins,
BCV broke ground in May 2011. On 24 undulating acres in Pleasant Valley, Md.,
Dave planted 13 varietals, making BCV the second largest vineyard in Washington
The fields there are imbued with history. These grapes grow
in the same spot where more than 150 years ago encampments of Union and
Confederate troops once mustered during the Civil War. Big Cork Vineyards is
centered in the historic rolling hills of southern Washington County, MD. a few
miles from other historic tourist attractions such as the Antietam Battlefield,
Harpers Ferry, the Appalachian Trail and the C&O Canal.
As a commitment to sustaining their land, they are mindful
of their farming practices. BCV uses cover crops between planting rows to keep
weeds at bay and maintains a raptor program for pest control. The goal is to open the tasting room sometime
in the summer of 2014. But the wines are being tasted at festivals and tastings
across the state. They were recently tasting and selling at Wine in the Woods,
one of Maryland’s premiere wine events in the state’s calendar.
Randy Thompson President & CEO transformed his family
farm into a grand vineyard. Since 1996,
Randy has served as president and CEO of ThompsonGas, a family-owned and operated
propane service provider, with 50-plus locations and 190,000 customers in 10
states. His talent and tenacity earned him SmartCEO magazine’s esteemed CEO of
the Year award in 2011. Ernst & Young honored him as Entrepreneur of the
Year in 2009. Prior to joining ThompsonGas, Randy served as a U.S. Marine Corps
logistics officer during Operation Desert Shield and Storm.
Dave Collins Vice President of Operations & Master
Winemaker has a degree in horticulture from Virginia Tech and more than 30
years of winemaking experience, Collins has been lauded for helping establish
Northern Virginia as a premier destination for wine lovers. Previously with
Breaux Vineyards, Dave’s wines have garnered hundreds of awards, including Best
in Class Merlot and the Virginia Jefferson Cup for Viognier. At Big Cork, Dave
oversees the growth and production of 24 acres and 13 varietals.
Teaming up this Dynamic Duo is a scary idea…scary in what
they might achieve. They’re like some comic book supper pairing. Leap tall buildings? Stop a locomotive? Catch the Joker? What feats of
daring will they perform?! These are two accomplished professionals. There’s a
smart businessman and an excellent winemaker. And the early results are
amazing. The sky is literally the limit.
Big Cork is already building a big reputation. They recently
won five medals at the seventh annual Maryland Winemasters Choice Awards,
including two Gold medals and a Best in Class acknowledgement. This annual
competition precedes the Maryland Governor’s Cup Wine Competition, which is
scheduled for Aug. 25. The following awards were collected:
•Best in Class (Off-Dry): Vidal 2012
•Gold Medal: Vidal 2012
•Gold Medal: Late Harvest Vidal Blanc 2012
•Silver Medal: Traminette 2012
•Bronze Medal: Chardonnay 2012
for a winery that hasn’t even opened its doors yet. But Lenn and I didn’t know
any of that before we took our first sip of Big Cork Cabernet Sauvignon Mountain
Creek Vineyard 2012. I feel kind of stupid now. I should have done some more
studying up before the Grand Tasting at Camden Yards that day in April. It was
immediately obvious that Big Cork was impressive. The wine was a dark
red-purple-ish elixir. Black cherry,
black berry and a hint of cassis. The same fruits came across on the palate
with hints of vanilla, cocoa, and spice. The fruit was dark and cooked like a
stew, so the acidity was kind of low, but the tannins were nice. The flavors of
the wine lasted a nice long time. Impressive.
The next was
the Big Cork Cool Hollow Meritage 2012. This is a single vineyard blend of
Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc grown in deep limestone
soils. Again, lots of dark fruit, like blackberry, dark cherries, bramble
berry, black currant, and a hint of leckvar. Great fruit, low acidity, and
modest tannins made for another impressive red wine.
No masks. No capes. No fancy gadgets. This pair of super heroes just carry a bunch of bottles of great wine! Both these
wines which have not yet been released as far as I know were eye openers, and bode well for the upcoming Big Cork Vineyards.
gentlemen! And good luck! You are both great news for the rest of us!